The Program — Counterprogramming


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ANNOUNCER: After the Program established its socioeconomic dominance, popular works of fiction received updates to better reflect the values of the new system. It is important to note that originals were neither destroyed nor lost, but simply failed to retain their appeal.

STORYTELLER: It was beginning to dawn on Paris, the prince of Troy, that he would lose this war. The Trojans might have had the crystal hourglasses and sundials made of gold, but it was the Greeks who had the luxury of time. It had been almost a decade since Paris abducted Helen, the wife of the Greek king. An act of a young man, audacious and daring, done for glory, and honour, and other words used to describe acts of people too powerful to be called selfish or stupid. And true, it was also done for love, or at least one of its sisters - perhaps infatuation; maybe lust? Whatever it was, it wasn’t an abduction, for Helen went with Paris of her own accord, leaving the old Greek warrior king, and his calluses, and his scars. Which was precisely why it was always called an abduction, or kidnapping, or rape; as strong facts demand strong opposition. He still loved her - both the Trojan and the Greek - he still loved her as much as the day he won her; as much as the day he lost her. How could they not, when her beauty was the only constant in their sinking, shrinking world? One man stuck in a war camp surrounded with mud, and horse shit, and parasites that gnaw through men’s robes and their thighs; the other imprisoned in his own damn city, half levelled by stones hurled from catapults, half burned by arrows dipped in tallow. Who would be the first to acknowledge that the last nine years were in vain? Who among the two would admit devotion to an unworthy cause? They might call themselves heroes but it’s easier to be brave in front of death than in front of life. Paris thought of his late brother Hector, slain by a Greek spear and dragged through the battlefield behind a chariot. To sue for peace now would be to kill his brother for the second time.

He is snapped out of his thoughts by a familiar figure entering his royal chamber. “What are you thinking about, my love?” - asks Helen, dearly. “Nothing important. Just how to win this war.” “You’ll find a way, my love. You always do.” - she says, and smiles with a smile that launched a thousand stones from a catapult. She then leaves him alone. Alone with himself.

The next morning, Paris leaves the forlorn city. He goes out the main gate with no escort, no arms, not even bearing the royal standard - all he carries is a small wooden chest. Flabbergasted Greek sentries watch the Trojan champion slowly walk up to them, hollow-eyed and so impossibly small. They escort him to Agamemnon’s quarters, which despite all the amenities added over the years was still but a glorified tent. It was the first time they met eye to eye, with their glances betraying a knowing bond - the look of two weary mariners caught in the same storm. Then, in place of honorifics, Paris utters a single thought. "The war is over." - he declares flatly, and hands the chest to Agamemnon. The Greek opens it, gazes into it deeply, and understands. He then commands his comrades to go home.

In the chest behind them, they leave the head of Helen of Troy.


REPORTER: This is Savannah news at 11 o'clock. I'm Gina the Giraffe, live in front of the royal cave as the Dominion marks the birth of the latest member of the royal family. King Mufasa already revealed the name of the cub will be Simba, which in the ancient lion tongue means "tax haven". All eyes are now on the entrance to the cave, as we wait for the high shaman - he’s always high! - to give his blessings to the imperial cub and present it to the adoring masses. Let’s hear some of their thoughts on this historic occasion. Hello, madam, can you tell us your name?

ZOE: Yes. I'm Zoe the Zebra.

REPORTER: And where do you call home, Zoe?

ZOE: I'm from the Northern Waterhole.

REPORTER: Zoe, what do you think of the royal birth?

ZOE: Oh, I think it's such an uplifting moment for the Dominion! It's awfully exciting.

REPORTER: And what are you looking towards the most?

ZOE: Oh, I just can't wait to be eaten! Like everybody, I hope it’s going to be by the King or the Queen, but honestly I wouldn’t mind even if it was the Dutchess! Or the Earl.

REPORTER: Well, from today onwards it could be the Prince!

ZOE: Oh, stop it... I’ll be devoured long before our fair Prince is old enough to chew. But perhaps it could be one of my daughters... A mother can dream!

DOMINGO: Bollocks!

REPORTER: I’m sorry sir, we didn’t catch your name?

DOMINGO: It’s Domingo. Domingo Flamingo.

REPORTER: And what do you think about the royals, sir?

DOMINGO: I think they’re all a bunch of lousy, lazy, overweight cats!

ZOE: You be careful! Those are our royals! You have no right to such disrespect!

DOMINGO: The most disrespectful thing around here is your insult to intelligence! How can you possibly be in favour of getting eaten?

ZOE: Oh it’s the circle of life. Nothing much you can do about it. And you know, at least it takes care of retirement.

DOMINGO: Well I’m old enough to remember the time before lions became fat cats!

REPORTER: Sir, you’re forgetting lions had to go and hunt before. What they have, they earned.

DOMINGO: Aye, and now animals volunteer to get devoured!

ZOE: Well if you ask me, it’s much better this way. It’s more civilized.

DOMINGO: Civilized? And what about all those hyenas they put into the ghetto? That’s not civilization, that’s genocide!

ZOE: That’s jealoucide! Because you’re just jealous lions wouldn’t eat you! I mean what would they do anyways with a scrawny little flamingo? The best you could do is being a toothpick!

DOMINGO: A toothpick?!

ZOE: A toothpick!!!

DOMINGO: You’re more an arse than a zebra!

ZOE: You heard what I said you!

DOMINGO: I’ll give you some stripes!

ZOE: Yelling at me in a public place, the disrespect… There he is! THERE HE IS!!! (... ) I can’t see! I CAN’T SEE! Move, you gorilla!

DOMINGO: The lions are taking a lion’s share! Wake up sheeple! Don’t let the pussies get away with it! Meat is murder!

ZOE: Quiet down!

[voice drowned out in song]

And can you feel the worker's plight? (CHORUS: Their plight!)

How can it be fair?

It's enough! A king’s a parasite!

Uprising’s in the air.

And can you hear the call to fight? (CHORUS: To fight!)

Free veterinarian care!

It's enough! Make kings and plutocrats

Pay their fair share.

It's enough! Make kings and plutocrats

Pay their fair share.


[organ music]

PREACHER: And on the third day, the Lord gathered his disciples in a vineyard. “Verily I tell you” - he told unto them - “who hears and understands, will know justice”. He then related the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.

“Many years ago, a landowner in Galilee went to the square early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay each of them 10 credits for a day’s work, and then sent them to toil. A bit later in the day, he went back to the square and hired more men, and in the afternoon more still. Finally, an hour before the going of daylight, the landowner hired the last batch.

When the time to pay came, the landowner called all the workers and gave each one 10 credits. So the workers who were hired early began to protest: ‘Those who were hired last worked only an hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of work and the heat of day.’

The landowner answered: ‘I am not being unfair to you. Did you not agree to work for 10 credits? You are envious because I am generous! The last will be first and the first will be last!’”

The teacher lowered his voice, indicating the story is finished. Hesitantly, the disciples looked at each other. It was Bartholomew who spoke first:

“Teacher, was this a one-time job?”

“Wherefore you ask, dear Bartholomew?”

“I inquire since if the landowner ventures out to the square to hire workers again, I don’t see a single one agreeing to come with him. The smart thing would be to show up at the vineyard an hour before the going of the daylight and demand a full day wage.”

Phillip protested at that interpretation: “That might be so, but I don’t see the landowner agreeing to those terms. Under the circumstance, he’d be better off to tell them all to go home.”

The teacher arbitrated between the two: “My beloved brethren, worry not about the pecuniary details of the tale. ‘Tis but a parable.”

But Phillip did not heed his divine words: “You know what, if the landowner had his wits about him, he’d return to the square the next day and offer to hire the workers for a set wage of 15 credits. However, he should make it known that he’d only be taking five men, and emphasise that the sixth one who comes looking for work would be turned back!”

Hearing this, Matthew spoke up: “You speak truly, brother, but if the workers had their wits about them, they’d resolve to organize and mutually bargain for wages as a group.”

The prophet tried to take control of the narrative: “Truly, the landowner needn’t diminish the wages. If he’s a man of grace, he will double them to 30 credits instead!”

“My lord, what you’re saying, of course, is that the landowner should extend the 30 credit offer exclusively to those willing to cross the picket line, nipping organized labour in the bud!” - exalted Simon.

Andrew was fast on the rebuke: “But Simon, don’t you see the folly in what you’re suggesting? 30 credits per worker will incur landowner losses!”

“Indeed!” - said John - “What the landowner should do is henceforth raise the price of wine.”

“The only thing he’d accomplish by raising the prices is have everybody procure wine from the neighbouring province of Canaan!” - thundered Thaddeus.

Peter was the next to offer his position: “Why should the landowner pay the workers at all? He should instead take the credits allotted for wages and give them to the Roman magistrate, asking the magistrate to ban out-of-province purchase of wine and other goods!”

“Peter, you don’t truly suggest bribery, do you?” - asked Thomas, incredulously. “Prohibiting out-of-province victuals would bring on widespread starvation and misery!”

“Well, maybe that would motivate the workers to finally tend the vineyard then!” - sulkingly retorted Peter, almost as if he were an owner of a vineyard empire, and not a subsistence fisherman.

“Oh, people would go to the vineyard alright - just not carrying their hoes, but torches!”

“The thing is, the uptick of violent crimes would likely get noticed by the overseers in Rome. The magistrate, now in a bind, would likely get fearful for his position - and in all probability deploy a military legion to restore order. Best case scenario we’re talking dozen or so workers rounded up and crucified!”

“Well I’m sure his holiness thought about all of this when he told us the parable.” - exclaimed Judas, at which point all the eyes pointed towards the teacher.

His response, just like his name, was not recorded.

[The Program main theme]

ANNOUNCER: This episode of The Program was made by eight people: Lesly Kane, James Jordan, Stephan Linton, Morgan Sharpe, Nick Partridge, Christien Ledroit, David Bradshawe, and IMS. Main music theme Matt Podd. Visit for more details. Becoming a monthly supporter, making a one-time donation, or writing a glowing review, are just some of the ways you can make us feel the love tonight. Head to the show’s official website and make it happen.


Ivan Mirko S.


STORYTELLER - Stephan Linton (Mandy)
PREACHER - David Bradshawe (website)
GINA THE GIRAFFE - Lesley Kane (Mandy)
ZOE THE ZEBRA - James Jordan (Mandy)


Matt Podd (website)


Christien Ledroit (website)


Nick Partridge